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Volume 32, Issue 3

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As more businesses realize the importance of contingency planning and off-site data storage, the question of how to find a proper media protection facility must be answered. The facility chosen should have a comprehensive program which offers more than simply storage. The following is a listing of features which you should look for in choosing a company to store your media:

Physical Security

First and foremost, you should look for a company with a strong, well-built vault. The best types of vaults for media storage are constructed of steel and concrete. The combination of these two elements provides dual reinforcement and is therefore less likely to collapse in the event of a natural disaster.

Surveillance and Categorization

In addition to physical security, your media should be well guarded. No matter how strong any vault is, there is no substitute for human surveillance, Your data should be watched by trained guards and monitored by closed circuit video cameras. Also, your data should be categorized as to its importance. This process allows classified or highly secretive documents to be handled with extra care, eliminating the possibility of unwarranted access or employee tampering.

Atmospheric Controls

Data Tapes are highly susceptible to atmospheric extremes. The climate within a storage vault should be maintained between 60 and 70 degrees to prevent tape damage. Humidity must be regulated as well, with levels varying between 40% and 50% to prevent harmful condensation. Another atmospheric condition that must be considered when storing data is dust. Dust particles can cause false readings or even deform your tapes. The vault you choose should be equipped with a ventilation system that eliminates impurities from the air. Then with the proper storage surroundings, you are ensured of the best possible reading when information is retrieved from your backup files.

Modern Fire Protection

One of the biggest threats to a data bank is fire. When combatted with conventional methods--water or foam--media cannot survive. Quite often, in the case of small fires in particular, water and smoke can cause more damage than the actual fire. When looking for an off-site storage facility, always look for a company which uses Halon Gas for fire protection. Halon Gas eliminates the oxygen necessary for the fire to burn, killing the flames while leaving your data unharmed. This is one feature which you should absolutely demand when storing your backup tapes.


Look for a company which will cater to your needs. Because of the importance of your data files, your off-site shelter should offer 24-hour access, courier service, free photocopying, notary services, conference rooms and a convenient location. The combination of these elements will make storage and retrieval easier, minimizing your down time.
Tape Maintenance

As anyone who handles media knows, data tapes are a fragile item. To get the best possible readings, tapes and cartridges should be cleaned after every 8 to 10 uses. This is necessary because dust and other foreign materials which are magnetically drawn to media can cause permanent errors. Amazingly, microscopic particles can tear tiny holes in data tapes, making the damaged area useless.

Until recently, tape cleaning was a costly, time-consuming chore. However, modern technology has made proper tape maintenance more practical. In a process similar to shaving, particles can now be removed from tapes, then gently whisked away, preventing recontamination.
Companies spend millions on computers and data records, yet they often neglect basic tape maintenance. Tape cleaning is an affordable necessity. Logically, any prudent executive should have a standardized maintenance program.

By using this simple guideline, finding the right off-site home for your backups should be less of a problem. Don’t be fooled by companies claiming to specialize in media protection who don’t use the aforementioned techniques.
Remember, the cost of storing and cleaning your media is an inexpensive form of insurance that you can’t afford to be without. So find a facility which offers you maximum protection and start securing your business’ future.

This article adapted from Vol. 1 No. 1, p. 17.